The Toronto Maple Leafs opened the season with a 2-1 win at home against the Montreal Canadiens.
Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell was impressive, stopping 31 of 32 Canadiens shots. He made a difference early in the game when Montreal generated multiple high-danger chances. Montreal could have easily had a multi-goal first period lead if not for Campbell’s play and he was rock solid as Montreal tried to rally in the third period.
It is going to take some time for Campbell to establish that he is a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in the National Hockey League, having never started more than 25 games in a season, but this was the right first step.
Montreal goaltender Jake Allen had a strong game, too, turning aside 28 of 30 shots. The goalie duel was tied 1-1 going into the third period.
Nylander an impact player
At 1:06 of the third, Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander hopped off the bench, took a pass from Morgan Rielly in stride and, after a fake, snapped a shot short side over Allen’s glove. It was fitting that Nylander buried the game-winning goal as he had a strong game overall, controlling play and generating five quality shots on goal.
Maple Leafs winger Pierre Engvall was a standout performer as well. He scored Toronto’s first goal and created multiple scoring chances with linemates David Kampf, and Ondrej Kase.
The Canadiens’ only goal was scored by left winger Jonathan Drouin, finishing a pass from Josh Anderson on a 2-on-1 after a neutral zone turnover. Drouin was also Montreal’s top hitter on the night, with five. Considering how last season ended for Drouin, taking leave from the team to deal with anxiety and insomnia, that was an encouraging first game back in the lineup.
Tempers boiled over a little bit late in the third period. Pierre Engvall, Morgan Rielly, Brendan Gallagher, and Josh Anderson were pushing and shoving after a whistle. The Maple Leafs came out ahead with Anderson the only one to take a penalty. With 1:47 remaining in the third period and the Canadiens trailing 2-1, that penalty put a dent into the Canadiens’ comeback hopes.
The Maple Leafs were sloppy in defense of their third period lead. Jason Spezza, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander each took a tripping penalty in the final frame. The Spezza and Marner penalties were only 16 seconds apart. The Canadiens had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:44 but Toronto’s aggressive penalty killing shut down the Montreal power play.
Defensive credit should also go to the Maple Leafs defense tandem of Rielly and T.J. Brodie. They got the most 5-on-5 ice time against Montreal’s top line of Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki, and Cole Caufield and Toronto got the better of play in those matchups.
Montreal had one last chance in the final seconds. Pierre Engvall missed an attempt on the empty net, leading to an icing call and a defensive zone faceoff for the Maple Leafs. Canadiens winger Cole Caufield got the puck to the slot and defenseman Jeff Petry fired a shot but Campbell was there to turn it away.
Toronto is right back in action Thursday night, in Ottawa. Petr Mrazek is expected to get the start in goal on the second game of a back-to-back situation for the Maple Leafs.
ToHN will have more analysis and comments from media availability shortly.
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